Up early this morning, and watched a two hour special on Los Angeles as seen through the eyes of the Los Angeles Times and the Chandler Dynasty. And what a fascinating journey it was. I was raised in Venice CA, and went through the transformation of the Times from a right wing John Bircher apologist, and voted the third worst paper in the country, to a nationally recognized Pulitzer prize winning newspaper, and voted the third best paper in the country.
Otis Chandler, publisher from 1960 to 1980, led that change from the day he took over the paper as the forth publisher in the Chandler line. I remember my parents, who were right wing Birchers, dropping their subscription to the times in favor of the Los Angeles (Santa Monica) Herald Examiner. The Times had become too liberal for them. Otis Chandler was the instrument that made that change possible.
Prior to Otis, the Times refused to cover either the black or Hispanic issues of the growing city. When he took over, suddenly both races started showing up in both pictures and stories. President Nixon, at the time, ordered his Attorney General, John Mitchell, to investigate Otis Chandler to the extent his tax records were pulled. All because Nixon thought Otis’s gardener was, as Nixon put it, a “wetback.” Such were the times. But that failed to dissuade Otis from reporting on the city he loved and respected to the extent he published a six part series on the John Birch Society, and its negative effects on both the city and the country. Their coverage of the Watts riots was unprecedented at the time.
When Otis was fired by the board of the times, made up of the many members of the Chandler dynasty, the downfall of the Times was pretty much guaranteed. It went from a Pulitzer Prize winning publication, to one concerned with the bottom line only. It forgot its roots and the City of Los Angeles, and worshiped at the alter of the almighty dollar. It was sold in 2000 to the Tribune Company of Chicago, ending the Chandler line, and an era that saw Los Angeles grow from a small western hick town to a major metropolis. It’s still alive today, but only as a shadow of its former self.
I remember bringing home a copy of the Times, because they had better comics than the Examiner (I think I was around eleven at the time), and watching as my father tore it up and told me never to bring the Times in his house again. That’s really not much different than the rhetoric we are seeing today.
So my questions are: Is the print media going the way of the dinosaur because of the internet? Has reporting reverted to right/left extremes to the extent middle of the road has ceased to exist? How can one believe basic reporting when the same story, reported by the left and right, varies so much there is little to compare either to? Can today’s reporting be compared to the great reporting of the past? Got an opinion? Let’s hear it.